No doubt you've been following the story of El Faro. She has been missing for several days now, presumably lost, along with the 33 souls aboard her. Her last reported position was off Crooked Island in the Bahamas, she was dead in the water, had lost all power, was taking on water in 30 foot seas and had been fighting hurricane Joaquin. She reported a fifteen degree list. El Faro was in the eye of the storm, where the winds usually drop, then rapidly change direction as the storm moves on, and where the seas are confused and coming from all sides.
El Faro is a large (730+ feet) vehicle transport and container vessel which sails regularly from Jacksonville Florida to San Juan Puerto Rico. Her course normally takes her just E of the Bahamas island chain, but on this trip, something was blocking her way--Hurricane Joaquin.
Its hard to know what might have happened to El Faro; the news reports give very little in the way of courses, speeds, exact positions, or other information that could be plotted on a chart. I do have charts of the area, but without more detailed information, it is very difficult to reconstruct her situation, or to try and determine how she found herself in that position. It appears she sailed directly into the storm, perhaps thinking it would move out of her way by the time she got there, or that it would not develop into a full hurricane.
Once committed to that course, El Faro's options were limited, the storm was forecast to swing N and E so avoiding it by turning left was rejected because it might have just made things worse. Turning right would have sent her into the island chain, forcing her to pick her way between islands and threading through narrow channels and shoals. Its possible in good weather, but conditions must have been awful and navigation problematic. With no power to maneuver, and with a stack of containers strapped on her deck like a huge sail, I fear she may have capsized.
An alternative route might have been to sail along the W edge of the Bahamas immediately after leaving Jacksonville, between the islands and the Florida coast, but this might have delayed her arrival at her destination by adding time to her voyage, and it might have meant steaming against the Gulf Stream current. For whatever reasons, either to meet her schedule, or because of an overly optimistic forecast, El Faro seems to have painted herself into a corner. Even before she lost steerage, she had nowhere else to turn.
All we can hope for now is that the crew somehow survived in liferafts, but so far nothing has been found except one of El Faro's life rings. No doubt she had communications, GPS, radar, weather forecasts, all the advantages of modern technology. But it wasn't enough.